The Silicon Valley International Triathlon is always one of the first events on the calendar and was Team Every Man Jack's first team race of 2014. With the drought draining many of the lakes in California, I am sure this won't be the first event that will have a change of venue/logistics this year but it turned out that the new locale was great! We would be racing in Half Moon Bay which is a beautiful coastal town and I really loved the course. One other change was that there were two separate transition areas which makes things trickier as well. In the off-season I always forget how many logistics and little details go into preparing for and executing on race day. We had a good plan for making sure we had enough time to do both setups and still warm up before race start and although it was a lot of details to deal with in the early morning everything got done.
I always spend some time checking the sight lines before the swim start and getting reference points to minimize the amount of sight I will have to do during the race and I am glad that I did. The swim was in a yacht harbor and as we were about to start the fog really started to push in making the far turn buoy invisible. I did my best to reverence off the boats that were anchored to both sides of where I thought the buoy was and when the gun went off you could tell that a lot of people had different ideas about where we were headed because the group spread out a lot. After a couple hundred yards the Buoy came into sight and I was stoked to see that I had been on line from the start. I think this actually gave me a bit of a gap because most people had to do some correcting and I reached the turn alone and in the front. The far end of the course was a surreal experience...you couldn't see the shore and swimming past faint silhouettes of boats hiding in the fog was like something out of a pirate movie! The corridor back to shore was the same way and it was really reassuring when the shore came back into sight.
I exited the water first and alone to several good friends waiting to start their wave cheering and I yelled to the crowd "It's really warm out there!" It was not but everyone got a kick out of that. Up the hill and into T1 I kept a light trot to keep from beating up my feet too much because I have been having problems with them. Transition was smooth and I was out onto my bike in good time. My regular triathlon bike was in the shop so I was riding a road bike but it was a good setup and there were some hills out on the course so I hoped to make some time up there.
One awesome part of leading out of the swim is that you get a CHP escort on the bike! Apart from that though there isn't the pressure to hit the gas right away because you don't have anyone to chase. I settled into a good solid rhythm and waited for what I imagined would be the inevitable catch of the guys on TT bikes making up time on me. The fog was heavy and my hands were really cold, even at a hard pace I was still covered in goose bumps and I was steadily loosing feeling in my toes. Fortunately those are things that no one can escape so it isn't a disadvantage and the competition becomes about who embraces the suffering most fully. To my surprise I was not caught before the long climb to the top of Higgins Canyon Road I felt confident I would gain time here on my lighter, more nimble road bike so I sat up and set my climbing tempo to work steadily working up the snaking narrow climb. As you come to the top of the climb you are atop the beautiful foothills that roll back from the ocean outside of Half Moon Bay and it was beautiful up there! You are also above the fog line and having been climbing for a while breaking into the sun really warmed me up :)
The plunge back to the coast was pretty chilly but there is a long straight section back to town where some hard tempo moderated some of the chills. I took some calories in there and also spent some time dragon-breathing into my hands to warm them up a bit and relieve the ache in my throat from heaving cold air. It is always really hard to get your shoes on when your hands are cold so I hoped that warming them up a bit might help. Smoothly into T2 I took a deep breath and focused my attention on getting my feet, which were almost scarily white at that point, into my shoes. Somehow with the challenge of the task I found myself slowly crouching and because I was kind of out of it I accidentally sat down. Instantly my brain fired up "Stand up! Don't Sit!" I jumped up and forced my feet into my shoes. Grabbing my hat I got out on the run as quick as I could.
The first segment of the run is a very slight downhill and I got my leg speed up quickly and felt like I was really moving. I may have taken in just a little too much sugar on the bike as I had a bit of a side stitch but I was running well and I knew that would ease up with time. I felt like I ran a really quick first two miles and once I was nearing the turn around I knew I had the legs to keep it up so I was eager to see the gaps of people headed out. Many of my teammates were running well in the first twenty positions and we all gave encouragement to each other as we passed. The gaps looked manageable to me which was a relief because with two miles to go I was feeling really run down, pardon the pun, and I thought survival mode would get me to the end. I ran well to the finish where there was a giant chocolate bunny waiting :) My favorite finish line gift I have ever gotten!
Leading wire to wire is always a fun experience and I had a great day considering my apprehension about the injuries that have been nagging and how difficult the winter was. Though I finished first I was third overall on time but in great company, being outdone by two of my fellow teammates! It was great to be back amongst the community after a long winter off, to catch up with old friends and see new excited faces out at the events testing themselves. It was a good day for me and a great start to the season!